DENVER -- Starting Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes barely saw the field in Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos after he was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter.
If his dip in playing time after the call was discipline related, it didn't come from coach Doug Marrone.
"I wasn't aware of any substitutional issue," Marrone said after the game. "It was definitely not a discipline thing, at least from my end, from what I was talking about. I'm trying to manage the whole game. I'd have to go back and talk to the defensive coaches."
As a follow-up, a reporter asked if a position coach could bench a player without the head coach knowing.
"Probably no," Marrone said. "Not without me knowing about it, if you bench him."
Hughes, who has been combustible at other points this season, was upset on the field about a pass interference penalty called against cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the second quarter, drawing the flag.
"After that play, I just said, 'Hey, let's get Jerry on the sideline, let's calm him down, we can't afford to lose him. And then let's go,'" Marrone explained.
The fifth-year defensive end, who has 19.5 sacks since being acquired in a trade in the 2013 offseason, led the Bills in penalties (11) entering Sunday's game. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in a Week 6 loss to the New England Patriots and again in a Week 11 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
"I think they just kinda picking on Jerry," running back Anthony Dixon said. "What I told Jerry [is that] I think he [is] a marked man when it comes to stuff like that. Every time he gets in an argument with somebody and they see him mouthing, they gonna pretty much flag him. That's what I told him.
"But it's just one of those things. Jerry is one of our best players. If he see [that] he got to get his point across, then we gonna ride with that, every time. Because he's one of our best players, one of our leaders."
Hughes addressed his flag to a large crowd of reporters after the game.
"I can't go out there and force a penalty," he said. "It's a bad situation. It's a third down, we're off the field. It's on me. I can't do that."
He did not know why he was kept on the sideline for the majority of the game following his penalty.
"I don't know," Hughes said. "Coaches ... I mean, I can't have a penalty like that. Third down and we're off the field. It's a big play."